O’Brien: Benet beats Danville, punches ticket to title game

Benet's Jack Nolan (21) finishes a fast break as Danville's Adam Forthenberry (21) looks to block the shot, December 30, 2016. Allen Cunningham / For the Sun-Times.

PONTIAC — Benet’s Jack Nolan and Danville’s Kendle Moore both scored more than 30 points in their quarterfinal games at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament on Thursday. That high kind of high scoring wasn’t in the cards on Friday. After three quarters of the Benet-Danville semifinal matchup neither team had cracked the 30-point mark.

“Our style, as tough as it can be to watch sometimes, is more of a half-court defensive style,” Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said.

It wasn’t tough to watch, the game was well-played and had a solid flow. The Redwings did their thing and Danville was able to handle it until midway through the fourth quarter. Benet won 48-42 and will face Simeon in the title game on Friday night.

“We are going to have to live and die with our perimeter shooting,” Heidkamp said. “It’s the nature of our team right now.”

Benet was 9-for-23 from three-point range. Jack Nolan scored 19 points and Liam Lyman added 10.

The Redwings (11-2) held Moore to just 12 points. He was 3-for-16 from the field.

“He’s obviously a tremendous player, really good scorer,” Nolan said. “Justin [Enochs] did a really nice job on him and we helped a lot. He was definitely a point of emphasis.”

Day’Len Davis-Williams led Danville with 17 points and four rebounds. The Vikings (8-4) don’t have a senior on the roster, so the future is bright.

Heidkamp has built Benet into one of the state’s consistent powerhouses. He’s done it with a few different groups of players now, so it is clear that this isn’t a flash in the pan. The Redwings have played in two of the last three Class 4A state title games.

Benet lost to Simeon in the Pontiac title game in 2014. The Redwings won the Proviso West Holiday Tournament title in 2010, but haven’t won at Pontiac yet. It would be a special win. The local Pontiac fans are clearly smitten with the way the Redwings play and the appreciation is mutual.

“There is nothing better than Pontiac,” Nolan said. “It’s super cool. The townsfolk are awesome. It’s something that doesn’t happen other places, just super unique. And it is probably one of the most talented groups of teams in the country.


“It’s a really nice way to get away for a few days and just focus on basketball with your closest friends, it’s just a lot of fun.”

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